We need an uprising of decency.
If only …
If only Donald Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over whether private health insurance should be illegal. If only Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over who was softest on crime in the 1990s. If only Trump were not president, we could have a nice argument about the pros and cons of NAFTA.
But Trump is president, and this election is not about those things. This election is about who we are as a people, our national character. This election is about the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children.
Trump is a cultural revolutionary, not a policy revolutionary. He operates and is subtly changing America at a much deeper level. He’s operating at the level of dominance and submission, at the level of the person where fear stalks and contempt emerges.
He’s redefining what you can say and how a leader can act. He’s reasserting an old version of what sort of masculinity deserves to be followed and obeyed. In Freudian terms, he’s operating on the level of the id. In Thomistic terms, he is instigating a degradation of America’s soul.
To accept death is to live with a profound sense of freedom. The freedom, first, from attachment to the things of this life that don’t really matter: fame, material possessions, and even, finally, our own bodies. Acceptance brings the freedom to live fully in the present. The freedom, finally, to act according to our highest nature. . . .
Only when we accept our present condition can we set aside fear and discover the love and compassion that are our highest human endowments. And out of our compassion we deal justly with those about us. Not just on our good days, not just when it’s convenient, but everywhere and at all times we are free to act according to that which is highest in us. And in such action we find peace.
Tibetan youth now receive a modern education in which they are exposed to opinions not traditionally found in their community. It is now imperative that Tibetan Buddhists be able to explain clearly their tenets and beliefs to others using reason. Simply quoting from Buddhist scriptures does not convince people who did not grow up as Buddhists of the validity of the Buddha’s doctrine. If we try to prove points only by quoting scripture, these people may respond: “Everyone has a book to quote from!”
Religion faces three principal challenges today:
- modern science and the
- combination of consumerism and materialism.
.. Modern science, up until now, has confined itself to studying phenomena that are material in nature. Scientists largely examine only what can be measured with scientific instruments, limiting the scope of their investigations and their understanding of the universe. Phenomena such as rebirth and the existence of the mind as separate from the brain are beyond the scope of scientific investigation. Some scientists, although they have no proof that these phenomena do not exist, consider them unworthy of consideration. But there is reason for optimism. In recent years, I have met with many open-minded scientists, and we have had mutually beneficial discussions that have highlighted our common points as well as our diverging ideas—expanding the world views of scientists and Buddhists in the process.
One of the more interesting trends of recent years has been the effort to view citizenship through a kind of debauched meritocratic lens. This approach is favored particularly by those who oppose enforcing immigration laws, who argue that somehow immigrants (including illegal immigrants) are more “American” than poor Americans. Like some earlier iterations of Social Darwinism, this worldview combines moral self-righteousness with a crass materialism.
.. Bret Stephens offers a “Modest Proposal”–style recommendation to deport poor Americans: “Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.” Stephens says he doesn’t really want to deport struggling Americans; his tongue is firmly in his cheek. His main purpose is to criticize the deportation of illegal immigrants by pointing to the supposed shortcomings of many native-born Americans. However, rather than destroying the case for enforcing immigration laws, this satirical proposal far more effectively skewers efforts to dissolve national fellowship in the name of the pseudo-meritocracy.
.. many immigrant families sometimes face more challenges than their immigrant parents did. For instance, sociologists Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz found that the economic prospects of those descended from Mexican immigrants often stall or even decline after the second generation.
.. Whether or not a poor American “deserves” to be an American is beside the point — what matters is that he is American and that, by virtue of his citizenship, he has an inherent claim to the public square and public concern. While pseudo-meritocratic initiatives to cull the weak are chic on Wall Street, they inject poison when applied to politics. Arguing that the poor and disadvantaged are somehow less worthy citizens exacerbates civic alienation; it cuts the materially unsuccessful out of the body politic and flatters the indifference of the successful, whispering to them that they are justified in sneering at the struggles of the weak.
.. the argument that the native-born are degenerate trash-people is almost a recipe for even more populism, a force that has caused Stephens himself no small angst in recent years.